Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.
August 7th, 1913
By Sidney Ormond
When the spectators at the Frank trial Wednesday broke into a ripple of applause, after Judge Roan had announced his decision that the damaging evidence of Jim Conley that he had “watched out for Frank on several occasions prior to the murder and had encountered him in an attitude which set him apart from normal men would remain in the records—when this applause came—it was not that any man contributing to it necessarily thought Frank guilty. It was simply a spontaneous tribute to Solicitor Hugh Dorsey who has fought so doggedly against such enormous odds to get before the jury a mass of evidence which, woven together, forms the whole fabric of the state’s case. The applause was a recognition of the ability of a young man who, say what you will of the guilt or the innocence of Leo M. Frank, has demonstrated that he is an an agonist of whom any man need feel fear.
The applause was simply an expression of the desire of the average person for fair play. Feeling for or against Frank seemed to be suspended. It was, more than anything else, an expression of approval for work well done by a young man who was passing through a strenuous ordeal. Interest in the actual evidence in question and its possible effect on the fate of the defendant seemed to be set aside for just the brief interval that it took for the clapping of hands.
The moment this applause was over the fact that it was unseemly and might prove prejudicial to the continuance of the case was apparent to every man who had participated in it. Each felt abashed that he should have allowed an expression of his feelings which might be misconstrued.
Dorsey Wins His Spurs.
Whatever may be the outcome of the trial—whether Frank be believed guilty or innocent or the jury fail to agree—one thing stands out crystal clear—Hugh Dorsey has won his spurs. He has proved himself capable of coping with the foremost criminal lawyers of this or any other state.
It is no small undertaking for a man of Hugh Dorsey’s years to find himself pitted against such able counsel as Luther Rosser and Rebuen Arnold, men the very mention of whose names causes witnesses to tremble and get stage fright.
Luther Rosser is an old hand at the game of badgering and buffeting the attorney who is pitted against him. He is a past master in the gentle art of goat getting, and what he doesn’t know about ruffling up a fellow’s feelings wouldn’t add materially to the repertoire of a nagging mother in law. When he goes out to get a lawyer he discards all rules laid down by polite society and the result is interesting as well as exciting.
Reuben Arnold’s Sting
The sting of Reuben Arnold is as sharp as an adder. He is mighty polite about it—injects the poison skillfully without mussing up the patient’s clothing or causing him any unnecessary loss of blood but the poison works just as surely. He is also some goat getter—a sort of polite purloiner of goats is Reuben!
Hugh Dorsey found himself opposed to these two men whose reputation alone is enough to awe the average man. He was opposed to them in a case which for many reasons was a difficult one to handle. It was his to piece together scores of bits of evidence in itself of no apparent consequence, but the whole forming a strong fabric. It was his to set the stage to project not only the possible but the probable. He had to gather together from a hundred different sources a large amount of material to test it, to accept this and to discard that.
The central figure—Conley—was an unknown quantity. Many doubted his story. He had lied repeatedly. In order to pave the way for Conley’s appearance on the scene, Mr. Dorsey had to work like an artist in mosaic. Corners had to fit and angles had to be true. It would never do to dump the mass before the jury and say,
“Here it is—now fit it together for yourself.”
Getting the evidence was but the first stage. Getting it by Rosser and Arnold was the real fight. And fight it has been at every stage of the proceedings. Either Rosser or Arnold was on his feet at every turn.
Frequently, Rosser would say in that goat getting tone of his,
“Sit down—sit down, little Hugh, you don’t know enough law to discuss it.”
But Dorsey has taken it all in good spirit. He has been the personification of patience.
Master of Himself
He has at all times been master of himself, certain of his rights and willing to fight for them.
Hugh Dorsey simply doesn’t know when he is beaten. He refuses to give up. He refuses to lose his temper. He refuses to lose faith in himself.
That’s why the crowd applauded Wednesday. They recognized a game fighter and they expressed recognition in the only way they could.
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